The Scioto Valley Conference champion Westfall Mustangs take their perfect 11-0 record on the short, 15-minute bus ride across Pickaway County led by first-year head coach Scott Keller. Although Keller is a rookie to the top spot on the coaching staff, he has been in control of the Mustang offense over the past four seasons – playoff seasons
– and he has a weapon-filled offense that can strike in a variety of ways. Junior quarterback D.J. Cain combines an accurate arm, and great quickness as a runner, to lead an offense that has put 41 points per game up through the first 11 weeks.
Cain’s top target is senior Jack Gose. The 6-4 senior playmaker has been known to bring his best game to the biggest stage. In last year’s playoffs, Gose put on a total show in a Week 11 win over Ironton. This past Saturday, Gose was up to his postseason magic again catching scoring tosses of 56 and 39 yards.
“Both offenses have great athletes, are both very efficient, and are both extremely fun to watch,” said Keller. “With that said, the defenses for both us and Waverly are both really good defenses. Both defenses are fast, athletic, and aggressive. I really think this game provides fans with some really fun match ups all over the field.”
Speaking of explosive offenses and great quarterback play, Waverly’s Trevor Walls leads a Tiger attack that averages 33 points per game and can strike quickly under pressure. This was proven in last week’s win before halftime, when Walls took his Tiger offense 89 yards in a little over a minute to cut what would have been a14-point, halftime deficit in half. On the drive, Walls was a perfect 5-5 for 89 yards hitting four different Waverly receivers.
“We obviously have a great deal of confidence in Trevor,” said Waverly head coach Rusty Wright of his All-Ohioan signal-caller. “He can make all the throws and his decision-making has been outstanding.”
Ironically, many southeastern Ohio high school football fans have often mentioned Walls as the best pure, pocket-passer in the area since Keller played under center at nearby Huntington High School. Like Keller in his playing days, Walls is a big 6-6, 215 pound quarterback that can make every throw on the field and is not given nearly the credit for his overall athletic ability. Walls, an All-Ohio basketball player a year ago, iced last week’s first-round win over Union Local with his feet. After completing 21 of 29 attempts for 276 yards and two scores through the air, the senior signal-caller ran for 13 yards to convert a third-and-long situation to move the chains and finish the win.
“Watching him on film you can tell that he is an intelligent quarterback,” said Keller of Walls. “He does a lot of checking at the line of scrimmage and if given the time he is going to fire darts all over the field and pick us apart. We will have to do a good job mixing our coverage and pressure schemes and not allow him to remain comfortable in the pocket.”
Obviously a quarterback does not throw for over 4,000 yards in two seasons without a wealth of weapons. Waverly’s Derek Roback and Adam Pettay combined for 15 catches for 245 yards in Waverly’s Week 11 win. Casey Williams was the favorite target of Walls for most of last season and the early part of this one, but a hand injury has forced the senior to only the defensive side of the ball forcing the before mentioned duo to pick up the slack in the Waverly passing attack.
If Waverly has an advantage in the passing attack it could possibly be offset by Westfall’s dominate ground game. The Mustangs have an incredible offensive line. The deep, experienced Mustang unit up front consistently opens up truck-sized holes and makes life extremely easy for Coach Keller’s talented skill players.
Seth Hardin rushed 11 times for 88 yards and two scores in Westfall’s 31-7 Week 11 win over New Lexington. Hardin combines with a long list of Mustang runners including Ben Kline, who is also a very dangerous return man for Westfall. Kline gained over 100 return yards last week giving Westfall the short field on more than one occasion. The hard running of the Westfall backs combined with the dangerous running ability of Cain can often force opposing defenses to start creeping more people up in the box leaving Gose one-on-one on the outside – a match up Gose will win more times than not.
Waverly’s running game has fallen victim to the injury bug throughout the year. The inconsistency of the ground attack has often forced all the pressure on Walls and the passing game. The running game did show signs of life in last week’s 27-21 come-from-behind win, but it also saw starter Kevin Malone and backup Caleb Rowland both leave with injuries. Malone and Rowland are both listed as doubtful for this week’s regional semifinal.
Although most trips into the red zone result in six for these two well-oiled offenses, both the Mustangs and the Tigers contain another offensive weapon that could prove to be the difference in a tight game. Westfall’s Cameron Puckett and Waverly’s Mason Good both have been very consistent in their PATs and both place kickers have the ability to stretch out to a little over 40 yards.
“Mason has been a great kicker for us this season,” said Coach Wright of his place-kicker who at 6-3 has also stepped his performance up as a pass catcher in Waverly aerial attack. “He does a great job with kickoffs and he has shown the ability to stretch his distance out to a little over 40 yards. Combine this with Derek Roback’s punting and our special teams have done a nice job limiting the big-threat return guys that we have faced.”
“As you get into the playoffs playing in Week 11, Week 12, and hopefully beyond, the special teams play such a big role in momentum shifts,” said Keller agreeing that the kicking game would be crucial. “Cameron has done a great job for us this season and I am very confident in his ability to produce if needed in a tight spot.”
The kicking game could be more of factor for these two offenses in Week 12 because they will both be facing one of the best defenses that each has seen all season. Westfall’s Zane Bailey – SVC Defensive Lineman of the Year – and Tyler Rogers – SVC Defensive Back of the Year – both lead a very disciplined, hard-hitting defense that has great experience and great depth. The Mustang defense allowed only seven points per game and have often times gotten in the scoring act themselves, including a three touchdown performance in a Week 9, SVC-clinching win over Piketon.
Waverly’s defense has had a solid year as well. Giving up just a hair under 13 points per contest, the Tigers combine good team speed with a knack for making the big play when needed. The Tigers best defensive effort came in Week 11, when Waverly’s defense pitched a second half shutout against a very explosive Union Local offense to allow Walls and company a chance to complete the comeback. The defensive unit is led by one of the best all-around football players in southeast Ohio in Ramone Conley. Conley had two second-half interceptions in Week 11, both coming just shy of the Tiger goal line.
“Last week we were so proud that our kids never quit,” said Wright. “We were down 14-0 and then 21-7 and our kids just kept playing hard. Through all the injuries and the incredible talent we were facing from Union Local, the kids just kept competing hard and found a way to win.”
Teays Valley is located in the northeast corner of Pickaway County. The high school is on State Route 752, just two miles off Route 23. While the No. 2 seed Mustangs will enjoy the near home game at a field where Westfall beat Teays Valley 21-10 in Week 1, Southern Ohio Conference member Waverly (the No. 3 seed) will make the 50-minute bus trip from northern Pike County for the 7:00 p.m. kickoff.